I’m making a big claim today, but for good reason: It’s time to retire the FIRE movement (and to split up those pursuing more control over their time). Read on to find out why.
My last post was about how the discourse of the FIRE community upholds systemic racism, but today’s is much more personal. This is about how our choices as individuals — as investors, as people choosing where to live, as earners, as tax payers and as charitable givers — impact and likely harm others, especially those who are already impacted by racial inequality. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps we can take to do better, and to ensure that we’re not harming others in our quest to achieve work-optional life.
We’re in an unprecedented moment in history, with people staying home, businesses closed, stock markets going for a wild ride, and most of all, fear for our lives as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. What does all of this mean for the FIRE movement? What does it mean for you? Read on.
One of the biggest things I’ve discovered in the last year is how badly I still want to be challenged despite having left my career behind. In fact, I want it so badly that I’m having to redefine what “challenge” even means to me. A real challenge involves some risk, even if that’s only emotional risk. Let’s talk about why it’s so important — and beneficial — to do the thing that scares you.
It’s exactly two years since we waved goodbye to our careers and embarked on our early retirement, what we always thought of as our next life. Now we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned and accomplished in these first two years of this next chapter of life, along with what we want to change in year 3.
I’m gradually moving toward a less frequent blogging schedule, driven largely by the evolving way I’m viewing and experiencing life in early retirement. This second year of early retirement has been a lot different from the first, and as I learn and evolve more, I’m discovering new ways of approaching life and purpose that sometimes come with uncomfortable realizations. In other words: I’m finally having that reckoning of sorts of “What am I doing with my life?” that so many retirees experience much sooner.
In early retirement, we have the opportunity to make life easy, maybe too easy. And while that may sound great (no commute! no travel at the most crowded times!), a life that’s too easy is actually bad for us. Let’s dig into why that is and what we should all do instead.
If you’re on the journey to a work optional life, or you’re already retired, you have probably spent some time pondering what you truly value most, and what doesn’t add value to your life. But do you spend accordingly, and — importantly — without guilt? If not, this post is for you, talking all about giving yourself permission to spend on what you value most, whatever it is, and regardless of whether others in the FIRE movement think it’s a worthy expense.
Since I’ve been early retired, I’ve worked much more than I ever expected, but I also earned little to nothing from that work, by design. And separating work from the money — and hustling for reasons other than financial gain — have taught me several huge lessons. Let’s dig into them.
Today’s post is by Mark, his second ever here on the blog, and it’s such a good one. He’s sharing some insight into his transition into early retirement, which has been different from mine in several ways, and the big lessons he’s taken from that, namely the importance of knowing yourself and getting to know yourself.
Achieving a big financial goal like early retirement is made possible by committing to saving aggressively. But when I look back at our years when we were so focused on saving, the things I regret aren’t the times when we didn’t save enough, they’re times when we didn’t spend on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Today I’m sharing one such instances, and the lesson I learned from it that it’s a mistake to let life pass you by just because you’re saving for a big goal.
What is “work” anyway? It’s a question that plenty of folks will expend a great deal of oxygen on, and which we won’t answer here today. But we will talk about why it’s problematic when people decide to impose a particular definition of work on others, and what that tells us about our collective messed up relationship with work.
I recently had an experience that offered a sharp reminder: despite years of saving (successfully!) and a year and a half of not blowing our early retirement budget, I’m still a spender at heart. But being a spender rather than naturally frugal doesn’t doom you to fail financially. You can still thrive and save at a high rate if you just structure your life in ways that set you up to succeed.
The choice of whether to buy on the basis of cost first, or on the basis of quality first, is a personal one, and in our case, we tend to go for quality as the first consider and price second. But that approach has taught us some hard lessons, both good and bad. Here are three examples of purchases, and the lessons we’ve taken away from them.
Part travel story, part advice, about the delightful benefits that come from slowing down and enjoying the present, even if you’re still working and saving for early retirement — maybe especially then! Don’t just stop and smell the roses, stop and spot the space invaders.
After taking a little time off from the blog to promote Work Optional, I’m back with a more detailed post on one of our biggest learnings thus far in early retirement: that you might spend more when you’re not working than you think you will. Let’s talk about why that is and what you should do about it.
Behind the Scenes of WORK OPTIONAL: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, Now Available Everywhere
It’s official, friends! Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way is out in the world! To thank you for your support in making it happen, today I’m sharing loads of behind-the-scenes details about the book-writing process, and hosting a massive giveaway. Come join in!
It seems that the period of stock market volatility we’ve been in the past few months is here to stay for a while. Does that have you feeling anxious? If so, you’re normal, but you don’t have to stay that way. Learning not to let the markets or their machinations affect you is surprisingly easy to do if you make that your intention. Let’s talk about how.
As much as I encourage anyone pursuing financial independence to include charitable giving in their plan, the truth is that you don’t have to shell out big bucks to do good in the world. There are quite a few great ways to make a difference that cost you nothing or very little, especially if you have time on your hands.
This week’s post is the third and final part in the wrap-up of our first full year of early retirement. Today we’re talking about everything we’re consciously changing in year 2, based on what we’ve learned about early retirement and learned about ourselves.
The series on our first year of early retirement continues, this week recounting all the adventures we had in 2018, an enormous list by most any measure. No profound insights here, just a really long list of cool stuff that shows just how much you can do when you’re financially independent and your time is completely your own.
Happy new year, friends! After a bit of a blogging break, I’m back today with a big rundown on all the lessons we learned in the first year of early retirement. The series continues next week with everywhere we went last year, and the week after with everything we’re going to change in 2019.
Traveling when very few others travel has loads of benefits, most notably lower prices, sometimes dramatically so. But it’s not without its downsides, as we experienced on our recent trip to France. So let’s talk about those downsides.
We’re supposed to save 2 times our salary by age 35, or is it 25 times our expenses to retire early? We’re supposed to ignore Social Security, but also claim it at 62 to hedge against market risk. We should try to get out of debt as quickly as possible, but also paying off a mortgage early is missing out on potential market gains. There is so much “truth” out there, so many “right” answers, and many of them conflict. How to make sense of them and decide which are actually true? Start by tossing out the whole notion that financial truth exists in the first place.
Whether you need to buy exchange health insurance for 2019 or you’re just planning for future years in early retirement, it’s worth doing your homework now on health care costs and factors. To make that easier, I’ve highlighted the most important factors to consider and how to do the best research based on your situation.
If you care at all about world travel, you already know all about planning your trips during off-peak periods. And while that saves money, it pales in comparison to being agnostic and opportunistic about where you travel. Here’s how to do it, and why you should.
It’s a day I’ve been waiting months for: the day when I get to share with you all the details of my NEW BOOK — what it’s about, how it’s different from the other books out there and some behind-the-scenes info on how it all came to be. Plus — of course! — how you can get your very own hands on it.
You don’t have to agree on what’s causing climate change to agree that it’s happening, that it’s getting worse and that it will affect those of us who are retiring early (just like it will affect everyone on the planet). So how do you account for something as massive as climate change in your financial and life planning? What do you do with the doom and gloom news stories, besides throw your hands in the air and declare it hopeless? Let’s break it down into actionable steps.
The FIRE movement has recently faced one of its biggest bits of criticism ever, from one of the country’s most famous financial experts (yes, that’d be Suze Orman), and the responses have been interesting. While plenty of folks have already responded to her critiques point by point, this is a good moment to remind ourselves why it’s so important not to write off any naysayers immediately, and instead to really listen to what they have to say.
Last week we talked about boredom in early retirement and the question to ask yourself to know if you’re ready to retire. Today we’re talking about how you can take action to prepare yourself well and head off that boredom to begin with.
Something that I think takes a lot of early retirees by surprise is that the things you always dreamed of doing when you were slogging through those saving years don’t automatically happen just because you subtract a job from your life. The minutes, hours and days still slip away mysteriously if we aren’t intentional about how we spend our time, and for those things that mean most to us, we truly have to make that time, which happens to be harder than ever in our distraction-filled world? This is one example of an area where we’ve made up our minds to make more time for something important, and an interview with John Zeratsky, co-author of the new book Make Time that’s all about this challenge. (Plus a book giveaway!)
Like it or not, boredom in both early retirement and traditional retirement is a real thing. Between accounts I read online and notes I get from readers, it’s a phenomenon I see occurring pretty regularly. So I’m digging into boredom with a two-part series, first looking at how your answer to one question in particular tells you if you’re ready to pull the plug on work and retire early.
It happened again recently: another high-profile media piece described the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement as one made up primarily of 30-something men in tech. This is a story some people love to tell, but it’s just that: a story. Let’s examine the myth, talk about why it’s harmful and kill it once and for all.
Today we’re digging into the archives to pull out everything I think anyone pursuing early retirement should know, pulling from some of my favorite posts from the past that have been buried by dozens or even hundreds of posts since publication.
I’ve had an odd realization the last few months in early retirement: I’d expected to catch up on sleep and exhale all the stress of work and find myself feeling perpetually well-rested and low stress. But in reality, I’m actually more aware of stress and more affected by sleepiness than I was before. But this isn’t a bad thing at all. Let’s talk about why.
In the last post, we talked about travel efficiency. And today we’re talking about what to pack — and what not to pack. In my million miles of flying and hundreds of hotel nights in all seasons and at all levels of formality, I’ve learned how to pack for carry-on luggage only, no matter what. Here’s how you can do it too.
If your early retirement goals include traveling, or if you travel for work to earn the big bucks to be able to retire early, then you can probably stand to travel a little more efficiently. I’ve learned a thing or two about optimizing every aspect of travel, so here are my collected strategies for max efficiency travel.
It makes total sense why the low-information diet is a frequent topic of discussion among current and would-be early retirees. There’s so much bad news these days that can feel overwhelming, and some well-known writers have argued in favor of tuning out. But is the low-information diet actually good for us? Let’s look at the science. (And then let’s look at how we can manage news and social media more healthily!)
If you’re interested in blogging anonymously and making sure you don’t get found out — or if you’re just curious how it’s done! — today’s post is a full compendium of the technical and content directives you’ve want to follow, from someone who successfully stayed anonymous for years en route to early retirement.
Typical financial advice often focuses on learning to tell needs from wants. Which is great! But it only gets you so far. Most of the choices we make aren’t about needs vs. wants. They’re about wants vs. wants, or need-wants vs. want-needs. Rather than making your spending decisions based on this false binary, here’s why you should instead listen to the feelings of future you.
It’s 2018, the world is upside-down, we’re retired and we’re… saving for retirement??! It’s true, friends. Despite already saving for retirement and feeling completely solid with what we’ve saved, this year we’re saving even more. Here’s why and how.
Back in 2015, with about two years of work to go, we decided to take a fairly radical step and ban all complaints about work. How did it go? What did we learn? Did it help? Read on to find out!
Today’s post is a personal one, digging into the biggest influence on me to retire early and — most importantly — on my own terms. Thanks to his disability, caused by a gene we both share, my dad didn’t get to retire on his own terms, and witnessing that shaped my priorities in big ways.
A topic we don’t discuss often enough as a society is how to help our parents as they age — what’s expected of us as adult children, what the emotional toll might feel like and how much time it will all require. But those things are real, and they’re crucial to incorporate into your early retirement planning.
We’re now half a year into early retirement, so it’s a great time to step back and assess where we are compared to where we thought we’d be, both what we’ve checked off the to do list for the year, and how we’re adjusting to our new life.
It’s the big vs. small debate, complete with data. Which helps you save faster for early retirement: big cities, which tend to be more expensive, or small towns, which may be cheaper but may also have less opportunity and higher costs in some areas. Let’s break it all down, and weigh how your personal tendencies and interests play into it all.
Today we’re talking about the darling of the FIRE movement: the HSA. It sounds great from a tax perspective, but do you actually come out ahead? Is there no consequence to having a high-deductible plan? Let’s dig into the question.
We didn’t contribute to Roth accounts when we were under the income limit, and for years didn’t think it was a big deal. But now we’re filled with Roth remorse. Here’s why.
For a long time, I let myself go down the magical thinking rabbit hole, convincing myself that early retirement would cure everything in my life that needed fixing. And even after I recognized that magical thinking for what it was, I still assumed that early retirement would fix a lot for us, especially things related to work stress and limited time. So how has that actually turned out so far? Let’s take a look.
Thoughts On Early Retirement and Post-FIRE Life From the Non-Blogging Partner // Q&A With Mark, Part 1
Today we’ve got a special treat! For the first time ever, Mark is here on the blog to share his thoughts on a whole range of questions we’ve gotten, from his thoughts on life as an early retiree to topics on which he has a different perspective from mine.
If we know we can’t achieve something the way someone else did, or the way we might have originally have envisioned for ourselves, it’s easy to throw up our hands and decide that it’s not even worth trying. Here’s how I let go of the idea of perfection to get on a better financial path, and some tips for how you can stop letting notions of perfection and imperfection hold you back.
The title of this one says it all. ;-) I’m writing a book, you guys! And I’m stoked to tell you all about it — where the dream originated, how it happened that it’s getting published and when you can get your hands on it.
It may seem like an odd thing to say, but as focused as I was on retiring early for so many years, I’m actually glad that I didn’t retire even earlier than I did. “Why’s that, you crazy person?” you might be wondering. Well read on, because there are a bunch of reasons that just might help others feel better about the work you do en route to early retirement.
You might be surprised to know when I truly felt financially independent, and it had nothing to do with leaving behind my career or being able to sleep until noon every day if I feel like it. (Though those are pretty great, too.) Instead, it was when I knew that Mark and I would both be okay financially whether we stay together or not.
Nearly everyone who achieves financial independence feels some level of impatience at some point, and that’s normal. But it’s especially easy these days to cross the line from normal impatience to borderline obsession, which only magnifies and worsens that impatience. Here’s some of what we did — and what we WISH we’d done — to get through the middle saving years slog.
I recently screwed something up, in part because I went the cheap route instead of spending money to do it right. And it was expensive to fix. But in the end, it was exactly the nudge I needed to grab ahold of my freedom in a different way. Sounds deep, right? It’s not. Or is it? (It is.)
I’ve written a bunch of times over the years about how important it is to branch out socially and make new friends in early retirement, especially if your work was particularly social and its absence will leave a void. We wasted no time in our hustle for new friends. Come see the results.
Even though we’re not in the savings phase of our early retirement journey, we often talk about what we’d do differently if we were just now starting to save at this point in time. Here’s a rundown on what we’d change about our approach, and what we’d do the same.
I get that there are plenty of folks who see early retirement as a selfish, lazy act that will ultimately make us drains on society. But those folks are ignoring the social good that each of us can do simply by quitting our jobs, as well as the incredible potential that early retirement offers each of us to do so much more.
Building on the recent post on simple living, we’re working on going to the next level and living more slowly, which is as much a mindset as anything that anyone could see. The only problem? We don’t actually know how to live slowly, because we’ve never done it! But we’re not afraid to put in the effort to learn how. After all, we’ve never been retired before, so it’s bonkers to think we’d be great at every aspect of it right off the bat.
We’re diving deep into the geekiness today, friends! We’re talking gaming (the video game kind, not gambling) and all the lessons we can apply from gaming to level up our finances on the epic quest to FIRE. Plus a giveaway of Kristin Wong’s new book Get Money, which is all about gamification!
My old career involved rebranding organizations, and that was one of my favorite parts of the job. Now, every time I hear someone debate what retirement is or isn’t, I think, “There is no one common understanding of retirement, so it’s definitely ripe for a rebrand.” Well, let’s do it. Let’s rebrand retirement. Come weigh in on what you want the new brand to reflect.
I love our financial independence/early retirement blog community like crazy, but there are some things we can all be doing to serve readers better. Some of them are simple, and some aren’t. But we owe it to our readers to be more transparent and to be more in touch with what our readers are up against.
It’s easy to observe that a lot of people — not just bloggers — end up working more than they expect to in early retirement, in large part because work feels very different when it’s by choice than when it’s by necessity. So why not plan for that and make your first year of early retirement a side hustle year? The benefits of doing so are potentially huge.
Some recent home organizing brought me to a bit of an archaeological find: a snapshot of my finances almost exactly 10 years ago, before Mark and I got married. I’ll bet they’re not what you expect, but what’s more, they show why it’s so important not to get discouraged if your financial progress feels slow in the beginning, or even for years!
You know all the math. You’re saving at a high rate. You’re optimizing your spending and avoiding investments with high fees. But do you REALLY have what it takes to achieve early retirement? Come find out.
While the online financial independence community is fantastic for inspiration and support, having a real life circle of friends who are like-minded on money comes with enormous benefits. Let’s talk about what those benefits are, and how you can build or strengthen a frugal friend group in real life.
“Simple living” is a term that I resisted for a long time because it felt so prescriptive and unachievable. Maybe it’s all Instagram’s fault, but it felt like there was a way living simply was supposed to look, and that wasn’t for us. But I finally saw that it’s up to each of us to define what simple living feels like, and that there’s tremendous value in doing so. (Plus, enter to win Mrs. Frugalwoods’ new book!)
Aligning your spending with your values with one of the first bits of advice many of us here when we get on the path to financial independence. But that advice usually goes on to talk about value — specifically what you get most value from — and not really about values at all. This is my case for why it serves you better to think about both what you value and your personal values when it comes to your spending and economic power.
Maybe it’s because I was confined to the couch all last week with a migraine, and maybe it was because there was recently a fresh wave of “Early retirement will kill you!” headlines, but I decided to really dig into this question of whether early retirement could actually be bad for us. Here’s what I found.
Our lives lately have looked slightly less than, er, adult. Some days we wonder why there are no grownups here to tell us what to do, instead just leaving us alone to do as we please with no structure whatsoever. It’s marvelous, of course, or at least marvelous for now, but we’re certainly wondering: At some point are we actually going to adapt to this new unstructured life?
The biggest non-financial question we’ve been getting lately, now that folks know we’ve retired, is “Aren’t you scared?!” And you might assume that people who’ve made the big leap and given up the big paychecks would say, “Nope!” But that’s not true. We are scared. Just as anyone doing something big and at least a little bit risky should be. But we didn’t let that fear hold us back, and that’s what actually matters.
Do the roller coastering markets have you concerned about the your early retirement plan? Sequence risk is by far the biggest risk early retirees face, and that risk can come from market crashes, long-term mediocre returns and even rising health care costs. Fortunately, though, we can all put ourselves in a good position to head off that risk, without lengthening the timeline to early retirement, by making some smart choices with asset allocation and behavior.
We’ve had a strange and completely unexpected realization already, though we’re still new at this early retirement thing. Time isn’t what we thought — days, specifically, aren’t what we thought. Let’s talk all about it, including how the zombie apocalypse is suddenly relevant to our lives.
I’m taking it on, you guys! 3000 words on why we aren’t fans of Bitcoin, and don’t think you should be either, if your goal is to build stable financial security or financial independence. There’s tons of research here, so come dig in!
Here’s something we never considered in all the years of planning to leave our careers and saving for financial independence: Early retirement is a form of time travel. And not just to one point in time, but to many! Sounds wacky, right? But it’s true. Here’s how.
We think we did this wrong in starting out our early retirement with too many things, including three trips, a long to do list, and a mad scramble to get out the door to our first big international trip to Taiwan. Or maybe we did it exactly right by accident?
We achieved early retirement and financial independence as DINKs (dual income, no kids), and of course having kids would change a bunch of things. Here’s our reflection on what we think kids would change. So tell us, what did we miss?
After we realized that we would work in early retirement, we also realized that we needed an easy way to decide if an opportunity that came along was actually work we wanted to do. And we created what we call the “high school rule.” Here’s what that is.
Contrary to popular lore, there are lots of early retirees and aspirants who are like us — NOT naturally frugal, and not naturally the most disciplined about money. But does that mean we can’t achieve financial independence and thrive in early retirement? Hell no it doesn’t! Today, a love letter to the atypical ones among us.
We are officially covered by an Affordable Care Act (ACA) / Obamacare health insurance plan. Though getting covered was not as easy as we’d expected, and there were some big lessons we learned that all early retirees should know. Plus we talk about the challenge of projecting our income and revisit the benefits of keeping income low for health care purposes.
As total newbs to this whole early retirement thing, though admittedly newbs who’ve thought about this stuff a ton, we find ourselves now wrestling with a very practical question: Should we spend what we budgeted for this year, or aim to spend less, maybe a lot less? There are good reasons for either approach, so let’s talk about what those are.
Our early retirement savings journey has come to an end, and now it’s time for our very last financial update! This time, I share a lot more story behind the numbers than we could in the past, and provide all new detail on just how much we’ve saved.
Sooo you know the goal we’ve been working toward and blogging about for years, of retiring at 38 and 41? Well, we did it! We retired early! And as we slowly adjust to our next life, here’s all the stuff we’re planning.
It’s actually here! The very last Monday of our working careers. We’re still feeling a lot, but it feels like something has changed in the last week. And while we have a lot of gratitude we want to express in this last week, we’ve surprised ourselves big time by actually feeling completely ready to make this leap.
We’re 10 work days from early retirement, and are now starting to consider new opportunities that look to the untrained eye a whole lot like work. The whole point of our early retirement was to be able to say yes more, and some of the things we really want to be able to say yes to, money aside. But there’s peril in that — taking on too much, and making it not really early retirement after all. Here’s how we’re thinking about setting new boundaries.
We’re less than three weeks from our early retirement, and still have a few things to do, mostly on the health care front. Plus we’re noticing that the scarcity thinking in these final weeks is strong — even stronger than we’d guessed it would be. See how we’re coping and help us make sure we’re not forgetting anything!
The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has never been far from my consciousness at any point in my life. I asked it of myself constantly as a kid, and I never really stopped even as an adult in a career. Which might partially explain how I got on an early retirement path. But answering that question — and separating “be” from “do” — is really what financial independence is all about.
We officially have so few work days left that we can count them on our fingers and toes. Which means we’re 100 percent fired up, right? Um, yeah, about that. Turns out even though I knew the feelings at this stage would be complicated, they’re even more conflicting that I expected. And that’s not to mention how I feel physically. How this point in time feels so different from what I expected.
When we first moved to Tahoe, we ran the heat at what seemed like a reasonable cool temperature, 62 or 63 or so, but then got a three-digit natural gas bill that started with a 4. So began our quest to reduce our heating bill and to find how low we could go, but this isn’t about keeping your house cold. It’s about finding your version of “selectively harcore” and all the non-financial lessons that come from being strict with yourself in one way of your choice.
We’re about to go through a life and financial transition as big as graduating from college or getting married — and that’s switching from earning plenty while working to earning very little in early retirement. Which means that we need a new set of systems to ensure our financial success, especially given our status as anti-budgeters. But it also means that we’re bringing back a tool we gave up years ago: the personal allowance.
Just as we have a mission in early retirement to figure out what we want to do when we grow up, and to adventure more, we also have a mission to be more charitable, both by volunteering and by giving money directly to important causes. Which may seem harder when we have less cash flow coming in. But there are some good ways to build charitable giving into your retirement financial plan, including with a donor advised fund. What’s your charitable mission?
This post is about my long side hustle career teaching yoga, including the cautionary tale I’d give any would-be new teachers. But it’s filled with parallels for so many side hustles and jobs in the gig economy — and it’s worth asking if your side hustle has anything in common with the pitfalls of mine.
The most common question we got after revealing where we live was “But… California?! It’s such a high-tax state!” So let’s take a look at why we think California can be a great place to retire, as can many high tax states. Because there’s so much more to total cost and overall lifestyle than just income taxes, especially given that income taxes are far less relevant to early retirees.
It’s time, you guys! For nearly three years, and 300 posts, I’ve written as “Ms. ONL,” and referred to my partner in crime as “Mr. ONL.” We’ve obscured where we live, what we do for work, and a bunch of other identifying details. But that all ends now! Come meet the real humans behind Our Next Life.
So many of us, upon learning about early retirement, dive in headfirst, and discover this community full of people working toward the same goal. And along the way, we adjust our baseline based on the people we meet here, and we might even forget that we are the outliers, not the normal ones. Recently, we were reminded just how not normal this goal is, and that’s made us all the more grateful.
It’s official. We’ve given notice at work, and now we’re starting to tell our teams and clients. We expected this to be an emotionally complicated time (no disappointment there), but we didn’t realize that the weight of keeping this all to ourselves had been quite so heavy. Click and I’ll tell you all about it.
Today we’re continuing the mini-series on Social Security and Medicare by looking at whether or not you should build Social Security into your retirement plan. We’re not counting on it, in part because we don’t need to, but also for some big reasons that are worth considering for everyone who wants a secure financial future. Give it a read and then let us know what you think!
Holy moly — it’s our *very last* quarterly financial update before we retire early in a little over two months from now! (Can I just keep typing exclamation points and have that count as an intro?) !!!!!! The third quarter was a good one for us, and it’s looking like we have a good chance of hitting our stretch “magic number” goal. Come see where we are, and then share your Q3 progress with all of us!
When we first formulated a real early retirement plan, it was based on the rigid belief that we’d never, ever work again. Or at least never *have* to work again. And while that’s still true — we haven’t expedited our plan by forcing ourselves to earn income in the future — we now expect to get a much more diversified set of income streams in early retirement. In part because life happens and we’ve made some different choices along the way. And in part because that recession hasn’t hit yet, health care is still up in the air, and it makes sense to keep hedging against sequence risk and health insurance uncertainty.
It’s a two-for-one post today! First up, an examination of the joint urges among FIers to DIY our lives and finances, but also to optimize as much as we can. Let’s discuss how compatible those joint impulses really are, and the joy that comes from embracing the suboptimal. And then, it’s pre-reveal contest time! Check out the DIY swag I made just for the lucky winners, and enter your guesses for where we live, what we do for work, and any other fun facts you want to throw out there. Good luck!
I know you’ve heard this one before: the narrative of “working a job you hate to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.” It’s what I’ve come to call the Fight Club narrative, a distinct strand of the FI movement that posits consumerism as public enemy number 1. And while it’s a compelling narrative, here’s my case for why it’s harmful, and what we should be talking about instead.
The financial aspects of the early retirement journey are well trod at this point: reduce your expenses, save at a high rate, invest in assets that create passive income, blah blah blah. What’s less talked about is the emotional journey, which means that a lot of us are stepping off the map, and heading into uncharted territory. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s our take on navigating those emotions, and why the unexpected ones are so valuable in guiding your financial plans.
Index investing, early retirement and financial independence in their most commonly discussed forms all rely on one simple principle: They only work if most people don’t do them. (Don’t believe me on indexing? Read on for plenty of evidence.) Let’s dig into this idea, specifically the thought exercise on what a universal aspiration for early retirement would mean for market valuations, and talk about what would make early retirement more accessible to more people.
We’re getting into the home stretch! With only about three months left to work — forever! — we’re feeling good about all that we’ve checked off our to do list. But we also wonder, what are we forgetting? And that’s where you come in. We’d love your help to tell us what else belongs on our final pre-retirement to do list. Come chime in!
Vicki Robin’s book Your Money or Your Life had a huge impact on how I view money, asking us to equate money we might spend with the life force it represents, in other words, the time it took to earn it. And while that’s a great starting point for shifting our thinking about money and spending, I have a different proposal for how we should think of that money to speed our progress toward financial independence, focusing not on how long the money took to earn, but on how much time it buys us back.
There is plenty of financial advice out there, including some very prescriptive advice about how to achieve financial independence or virtually any big goal you can think of. The only problem is: that advice, while great for some, is guaranteed to be bad advice for others. Rather than trying to follow advice to the letter — or give it out in a prescriptive way — let’s focus on the formula instead, a formula with three key ingredients that can get anyone in nearly any life circumstances to achieve big goals.
If you’d told me at the beginning of our early retirement journey that we’d be on the verge of retiring only six years later, and that we wouldn’t be miserable or feel like we’d lived a life of sacrifice to make it possible, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. And not because we haven’t dramatically cut our spending. We have. But because sacrifice is a perception, not an absolute, and we’ve managed to balance out cuts to our spending with additions to other parts of our lives. Here’s how.
Today I’m (finally) sharing something that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but haven’t tackled because there is no easy formula: how to determine what is “enough” to save for early retirement. “Enough” is perhaps the centrally important concept to early retirement, but it can feel overwhelming to quantify your own. Here’s a breakdown on how we calculated ours, and how you can do the same for your own circumstances.
Those of us on the FI path who are still working have an incredible freedom that most of the working world doesn’t enjoy: the freedom to push for the change in our companies or industries that others might get penalized for pushing for. Better pay, more empowering conditions, parity, diversity, you name it. If we get labeled difficult or squeaky wheels, it doesn’t matter, because we’re on our way out. Here’s how — and why! — to use that power, both for the greater good and for your own legacy.
We know — the excitement of the *early* part of early retirement is powerful. So much so that it’s easy to focus our retirement planning mostly on those early years. The later years are also so much harder to predict — more variables, a longer time horizon, more unknown unknowns. But as we’ve seen in our own planning, it’s easy to have an inadvertent early phase bias built in — here’s how to suss that out and ensure that you’re planning for both your early retirement and traditional retirement.
Early retirement and financial independence are such huge goals that most of us can’t help but build them up in our minds, and that often leads to the totally normal tendency to get into magical thinking: believing early retirement will make us happier, or better people, or cure whatever else ails us. Today we get into why it’s worth countering that magical thinking, and how to do it.
We don’t walk around in the world feeling like some financial masters of the universe. I blog about money, of course, so I think about it a fair amount – though less than when I was more obsessive in checking our balances and updating the spreadsheets. But I […]
A few weeks back, we asked you guys to complete a reader survey — and now we’re back with those results! Best of all, there are definitely some big picture conclusions that apply to all FI bloggers. Whether you blog or not, come check out what we learned about you guys. (Bonus: more charts and pictures than ever before!)
There’s a principle in medicine that the dose makes the poison. Which means, very few substances are good or bad for us no matter what. Instead, what matters is how much of them we take. And it’s exactly the same with money. It’s easy to make symbols of things like buying lattes or paying for cable, but those behaviors aren’t objectively a problem. What might be the problem, however, is the dose. Why we’re big believers in focusing on the dose, in context, and embracing a sense of radical moderation.
Today we’re tackling a question that I know a lot of people ponder before retiring early: whether or not to try to negotiate a layoff or severance on your way out, to soften the landing. We’ve given it tons of thought, and have decided that approach isn’t for us — but it very well might be for you. Let’s examine both sides.
Over the past two and half years of blogging about our early retirement journey, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from several dozen of people who’ve achieved financial independence. All the while, we’ve been going along on our journey, and noticing what spurs us along more than anything. Turns out our journey and those of others’ have one key ingredient in common.
Today is officially day 100 in our countdown of workdays left before we pull the ripcord and end our careers. Which is exciting! But excitement isn’t our overwhelming emotion right now — what we’re feeling instead is a pretty big surprise. How things finally got real, and the unexpected feelings that came with that.
Things have been moving quickly in the health care debate, which many of us on the verge of early retirement have been eyeing closely. Just this week, the latest Senate proposals to reform the Affordable Care Act and the later proposal to repeal it altogether were withdrawn. So where does that leave us all? What do we know? And more importantly, what do we still not know about health care and costs for early retirement? Let’s take a close look.
We’ve evolved a ton in our vision for early retirement, starting with only a vision of what we were retiring from, to now having a clear vision of what we’re retiring to, and making a big shift in the role we see work playing in our post-career lives. But even though we plan to work after this year, we see it as so different from “real work,” because unlike almost everyone else out there, we will be totally free to fail at whatever we do. A look at our new and revised definition of early retirement, and how the freedom to fail has helped us get here.
It’s time for our second quarter early retirement progress report — our second to last! — complete with charts galore. This quarter we hit another milestone that’s both wonderful and a relief, and we’re setting our sights on building up a sizable cushion by year’s end for future health care unknowns. Plus: we’ve launched a reader survey and we’d LOVE your input.
Today we’re talking options, and keeping them open. Early retirement isn’t an ending, after all — it’s a beginning. And if we go into that beginning with a limited set of options, and no ability to change our course, we could be setting ourselves up for a less-than-ideal future. Here’s why it’s so important to have an exit plan from your exit plan, which really just means you’re giving yourself the financial and logistical resources to change your mind.
I spend a lot of time talking about the nobler aspects of early retirement like how it will give us time to do more volunteering. But can we all be honest? We can do noble things in retirement, but the reason doesn’t have to be noble at all. For us, it’s all about what is most fun, and the answer is: not working. We want to retire early so that we can go back to being kids, but the paradox is that we’ve had to grow up big time to avoid growing up.
Our early retirement might be right around the corner, but we still have a lot to do before the year is up to make sure that we’re truly ready to make the big leap. Then after we pull the plug, we have a different set of things to do. Here are our big lists of things to do before we retire early, and right after, as well as things we’ve already checked off the list this year. Are we missing anything? Let us know!
Lately we’ve been mulling over a question: Is it a win or a fail to die with money leftover? Of course we can’t know how long we have, but if we could, would we prefer to spend our assets down before we die, or to be able to leave a big legacy behind? There’s a lot behind this question, and today we dig into all of it!
It is a natural thing to want to save money, and those of us pursuing huge financial goals innately find the idea of saving even more powerful. The problem comes when marketers deliberately blur the line between saving and spending, convincing us we’re doing one when really we’re doing the other. Today, recognizing when saving money is actually spending money, and how to keep the focus on the saving itself.
We love that more and more people are talking about prenups these days (more financial transparency between partners is great!), but for those of us considering early retirement, we think a pre-FIRE agreement is even more important. After all, early retirement comes with its own set of major risks, some of which we’re insulated from to some extent as a couple, but others which become bigger risks for those who are married. Here’s how we’re navigating this.
We’re huge believers in pacing ourselves on the way to early retirement — both finding ways to manage the impatience, and creating boundaries and self care habits that keep us healthy along the way. But as we get close to that finish line, it’s getting harder and harder not to break out into a full sprint.
Today we’re exploring a single question — Are some people predisposed to embrace the FI mindset? — through some personal stories, including a spending confession so out there I almost couldn’t hit publish. But most of all, we want to hear from you guys on this one — what do you think all FIers have in common, and can anyone become an FIer? Come weigh in!
For years, I labored under the cozy illusion that there were “safe” choices in life and “risky” choices. And of course I was drawn to the ones that felt safer. Until I saw with my own eyes, in my own finances and my own life, that sometimes the safest choice of all is actually the most risky. And that realization changed everything.
In the last several months of contemplating leaving work, while doing a better job of saying no and setting boundaries (woot!), I’ve come to realize something: I truly love what I do. Bad news for a soon-to-be early retiree, right? Not at all! You can definitely love your job and still want to retire early — no insanity required! Here’s why.
I’m sharing a personal story today about why the oft-used term “financial freedom” has always meant something totally different to me. (Spoiler: You’re almost certainly already financially free.) Let’s talk about freedom!
Today we’re talking mission statements, something that most companies have, but which few individuals or families do — which is a shame, because they can be super helpful in keeping you on-track to reach your biggest life goals. Think of your mission statement like a compass or GPS that helps you find your way if you ever start to wander off the path.
I just can’t help it. I feel compelled to keep poking the bear that is the retirement police, those folks who feel the need to tell us if we are or aren’t “retired,” according to whatever their definition happens to be. Today that means talking through the evolution of our personal definition of retirement, encouraging you to create your own, and taking a deeper look at what actually constitutes “work.” Come join the discussion!
Maybe this is true for most of us, but we tend to focus on what’s right in front of our faces. On the journey to early retirement, that means thinking about how we treat our money now, and not always thinking back about how we used to relate to it. But today we’re taking a little look back to see what has surprised us most about pursuing financial independence, both financially, and in terms of our mindset.
A question we ask ourselves all the time is: Do we just want to retire early because deep down we feel bad at working? Even though we’re nothing close to bad at our jobs — we’ve very good at them — we’ve never quite been able to muster the right attitude to do them with total commitment. Which makes us wonder: for those special few who are seriously incredible at their jobs, would early retirement even enter their minds? Come share your theories!
It’s nothing new to say that our collective digital life has made many of us focus too much on signs of external digital validation such as likes and comments. I’ve so far been okay at avoiding that trap, but after we leave our careers, the work I do will be more digital than ever. And given my gold star-seeking tendencies, how can I redefine my self worth post-career without falling into the digital stats trap?
Though we’ve been thinking about all the questions that go with the end of work for months now, we’re late in realizing that we need to be ready to respond if our companies lay on the hard sell to try to get us to stay. We’ve given it some thought, and here’s what it would take for us. What would it take for you?
We’ve talked a lot about health care lately, given the political climate, but not health itself. And health is super important to us. Why bother planning for a long retirement if we aren’t going to stay healthy enough to enjoy it? Here’s everything we’re doing and thinking about to increase our chances of reaching a ripe old age in good health.
This year has been flying by, and we can’t believe it’s already time for our first quarter update. And it’s not just numbers on our minds — getting this close to retirement has us feeling all kinds of contradictory feelings, and the recent market boom has us in a state of disbelief.
Monday’s post spurred so much great discussion around what constitutes “retirement,” so I thought we could take it a step further, and do some exercises around what actually constitutes retirement, and what that’s based on. There’s no right or wrong answer, so come weigh in!
An interesting thing happens with a lot of financial independence bloggers. As your audience grows, you suddenly have this incredibly opportunity not only to reach more readers, but to earn more from the blog. Which is wonderful! Except when it means you’re only telling part of the story. Here’s why this matters, and what we should all keep in mind as we read FI blogs.
Reaching financial independence is, more than anything, a waiting game. Especially for those who follow a passive investment strategy like indexing, there’s very little thinking to do once you set your plan in motion. But, the journey still takes years, often many years. Here’s why it’s so critical to pace yourself on that journey.
The fact that we are retiring at the end of this year is getting more and more real for us, and some of that feels scary. But it also feels crazy exciting for obvious reasons, and for less obvious ones like the forthcoming opportunity to re-engineer our lives to reinforce better habits and avoid triggering the bad ones associated with our current work lives.
It’s so fun and exciting to plan for financial independence and early retirement that it’s easy to focus only on what happens when things go well. But it’s important to pressure test our plans to make sure they will still hold up even if (or when!) things don’t go as planned. Here’s our suggestion on one way to do that.
Something we’re starting to realize is: What we all call retirement planning isn’t really true retirement planning. Money is only a tiny piece of this, and not what most of us will be thinking about daily once we stop working. Real retirement planning is planning for all the rest of life that comes post-career, and for us, a big part of that is travel. So we’re shifting now into *real* retirement planning, and thinking through those big travel questions like how long to stay out, and where to go first.
Today I’m on the Mad Fientist podcast! To celebrate the occasion, we’ve got a monster post with the full rundown on every aspect of our financial plan and financial philosophy, so new readers can get a better sense of us, and long-time followers can see everything all in one place.
Though early retirement feels like a big goal in and of itself (and it is!), it’s not an endpoint. For most of us, it’s just the beginning, and it’s worth thinking in advance about what your next big audacious goal will be after FIRE. We offer some suggestions here!
For a community that’s so into freedom, the financial independence blogosphere can be an awfully strict place with tons of rules. It can be hard to believe that we have the right to do some things just because we feel like it. Today, we give you permission to do exactly that, and share some of our most bratty financial decisions.
Living in the mountains has taught us that catastrophe comes quickly — wildfires can wipe out whole communities in the blink of an eye. While the world is still the safest it’s been since the dawn of civilization, there are many good reasons right now to up your savings game, both for your own safety, and for that of others.
Today is our second blogiversary! In some ways, nothing has changed — we’re still slogging toward that big goal. But in other, more important ways, SO MUCH has changed in our lives, driven in large part by this blog and the awesome people who read it. Today we take a look at where we’ve been, a look at where ONL is headed, and we answer your questions.
Thanks to some recurring power outages, we’ve had a lot of time lately to talk about what’s on our minds. And something that keeps coming up a lot is anxiety about what it will be like when we quit — not our post-work life, but the actual act of quitting itself. We know this feels tougher to us because we’ve been in our jobs a long time and are invested in them. Today: When loyalists contemplate quitting.
I never took a break between high school and college, or between college and starting my career. And so for years, I thought I’d missed my chance to do something awesome, as though that’s something only young 20-somethings can do. But seeing people in our mountain town piecing together lives of adventure in all different ways made us realize: we haven’t missed out on anything. In fact, we’re probably doing this the better way, because our life of adventure will be built on solid financial footing.
Today’s post is more philosophical, looking at what has happened (at least for us) as our numbers have grown over time. It has been wonderful to celebrate a steady string of financial milestones over the years, but outside of those moments of celebration, it all actually feels less real, not more real. Is it just us? Let’s discuss!
Paying off our mortgage last week has gotten us thinking a lot about debt, and how differently we all think about it — but also how we *feel* about it. Today we’re diving into those thoughts and feelings, and — because we got so many questions about it — diving into why we did pay off the mortgage on our house but why we’re not paying off the mortgage on our rental anytime soon.
Today, an amazing thing happened. We woke up in a house that is completely ours. We’ve always planned to pay off the house before we retired, but we’d never imagined we’d hit this goal so soon, nor could we have expected how incredible it would feel. Here’s why we did it, and what it means for our home stretch to early retirement.
Today’s a biggie: the culmination of so many discussions and decisions! Will we pay down the mortgage or pad our taxable accounts? How did our 2016 look in the end? When will we retire in 2017? It’s all here! (Plus, happy holidays! Sending lots of holiday love!)
Anyone aspiring to retire early can list off a million reasons why we want to quit working, but what’s interesting is that most of those reasons have to do with work culture, not with work itself. On some level, we all crave the meaning and satisfaction that come with work, but the realities of modern work are very different from that work ideal. Learning to recognize the difference between work itself and work culture — and likewise the difference between job burnout and a true dead end career — can help us zero in on why we want to retire early to begin with.
We’re thinking a lot lately about asking for more — asking for the compensation we deserve at work, and asking more of ourselves. And now, it’s official: in 2016, we successfully did both. Today, the story of how I negotiated for more money at work, and how we rose to the higher challenges we’d set for ourselves this year. Do we consider 2016 an unqualified success? Read on!
Lately I’ve been making it sound like we both want to retire as soon as humanly possible, but that’s not true. I’m the one who wants out ASAP, while Mr. ONL is playing the role of the financially prudent one and trying to keep us working for one more year, as we’d always planned. But that’s not where we started — he used to be the one who wanted to quit ASAP, while I wanted to be sure we were prepared times ten. Today: the story of our retirement timing role reversal.
It’s year-end bonus time! And ordinarily we’d be following the plan: allocating part of our bonuses to paying down the mortgage and part to our investments. But this year, with retirement on the horizon, and our savings ahead of schedule for the year, we have some tougher decisions to make.
Today we’re reflecting on comparison — when it can be good, when it crosses the line, and if it’s even possible to know when you’ve crossed that line. We work hard to share our story in a positive way that encourages others, but lately we’ve been wondering if some of what we share inadvertently creates an arbitrary standard that begs comparison.
This is both an exciting time and an anxious time for us — exciting because we’re so close to achieving our biggest life goal, and anxious because of all the uncertainty the election put on early retirees. Add to that our ongoing work stress, and it all has us wondering what would happen if we retired today. Today, we explore that thought experiment.
Almost a year ago, we realized that we’d reached financial independence. And reaching it hasn’t been anything like what we might have expected. Our FI life is still life, with all the usual ups and downs. Some things are better, but most things are the same. This year has taught us: Financial independence is a good goal, but a bad goalpost.
Our early retirement plan has gone through a lot of iterations, but one thing has remained constant: our insistence that we never want to have to work again. But we’re starting to realize that we’ve been thinking about this the wrong way. Come join us as we trace our journey to our recent epiphany that we will earn money in the future, even after we retire.
We love bringing you guys lessons from people who’ve actually crossed the Rubicon and retired early. Today we’re sharing lessons from Jim Wang of WalletHacks.com. Jim retired at age 30 after selling his massively successful blog, Bargaineering. But what he learned after retiring early wasn’t what he expected.
We get the question a lot: “How do you stay patient en route to early retirement?” But we’ve realized that’s the wrong question we should all be asking. The biggest predictor of happiness in the journey to early retirement isn’t how patient or impatient we are, it’s whether we stay engaged or let ourselves disengage at work. That’s why we now say: Don’t check out early.
We don’t pretend to know whether what we do with our money will work just as well for other couples, but today we’re talking about something we do know for sure: We are going to be able to retire earlier because we have fully combined finances. We’ll also trace our history of money management as a couple, and look at the money-related feelings that give us extra momentum toward FIRE.
The good financial news keeps rolling in over here at the Our Next Life house. We hinted at it recently, but today we’re sharing loads more detail about our ahead-of-schedule progress toward early retirement, with charts galore. It’s starting to feel downright magical around here!
One of my favorite parts of FinCon was getting the chance to talk to bloggers who are ahead of us on their FIRE journeys, including several who are already retired. I asked them all if their last year of work was harder, and answers were mixed. It all seemed to come down to how much they cared about work in the home stretch, and it has gotten us wondering whether we can care less to make our last year less stressful.
I’ve just returned from FinCon16, my first time at the financial bloggers conference, and I’m completely brimming with excitement about it all. My vision for this blog is a lot more clear, but most of all, I was continually floored by the warmth, openness and generosity of the entire community there. It all got me thinking about communities we create, and how we can all connect — and I don’t just mean bloggers!
Creating a vision for early retirement isn’t just important so you have cool stories to share — it’s crucially important to make sure you have a smooth transition into retirement, avoiding the declines in physical and mental health that many people experience, even in early retirement! Bonus: An update on our progress, and lots of graphics on creating a next life vision based on presence of awesomeness, not absence of work.
Today we’re talking about hustling — both of the generating business variety (ever-present in our careers) and the oft-discussed side hustle. We’ve done a lot of both, and will share what we’ve learned along the way — including giving you permission if you want it to stop side hustling altogether.
We’re realizing that we’re starting to do things for the last time — especially things related to work and work travel — which is bringing out unexpected urges in us. Can you relate?
Today we’re sharing the story of our rental property, but we wouldn’t recommend that others follow our lead on this one. The decisions that went into it were about a lot more than the bottom line.
One of the ideas that’s having a major moment these days is the notion that we should all be pushing outside of our comfort zones. We all hear proclamations like, “Quit your job and travel the world!” Or “Stop wasting time in that boring job and do what you love!” Today we’re talking comfort zones and whether we always need to get out of them.
We like to plan for pretty much every possible eventuality, and given that we’ve already put about as many contingency plans in place as we can, we’re still thinking about the question, What if things don’t go as planned? But now we’re on to the more metaphysical answers, not the financial ones, like: What are our early retirement deal-breakers?
We’ve talked a little bit about upping our savings game, but we’ve only talked about it in general terms. Today, we’re going to get specific about how exactly we’re raising the bar, and especially what that looks like for non-budgeters like us.
Today we’re examining my own bootstraps story — how I put myself through college — and questioning both whether that’s the full story, and whether defining that story more broadly gives us more to be thankful for.
Thanks to thinking about early retirement pretty much all the time, reading lots of thought-provoking blogs about it, and of course writing about it in a few thousand words a week, our thinking has continued to evolve. Today we’re diving into how we’re now thinking about our time, money and purpose in early retirement.
We have said from our second post ever that our vision for early retirement has never included mandatory work. And we’ve been more vigilant about this fact than probably any other in our early retirement plan. We’ve shifted our investments, we’ve changed our timelines, we’ve debated when to give notice, but we’ve never wavered on the no mandatory work idea. But… that might be changing.
Get ready, because we’ve unleashed the excitement in today’s update! 2016 has been good to us financially, and we’re even farther ahead of schedule toward early retirement than we were at the end of the first quarter. This is a big one!
If you’ve been reading here, it will come as no surprise that we care a lot more about happiness than we do about money. And happiness doesn’t happen by accident. For us, happiness right now means not waiting to become our best selves. Here’s how we’re doing that.
I am definitely a planner by nature, which means that we have all kinds of contingency plans, emergency preparedness plans, you name it. But I recently realized that I tend to plan for the worst only, and not for the almost worst. Today we’re talking about what happens if any of those not-quite-worst-case scenarios happen.
Before we left the big city we used to call home, we felt like we’d never be able to afford an actual house, which made us feel “poor” even though we had money saved and earned a good living. And now, we feel comparatively “rich” despite earning about the same. Today we discuss the impact of where we live *and* its culture on how relatively wealthy we feel.
I recently had a realization that I now think has been influencing the entire direction of my life without me realizing it. And it’s completely related to our plans to retire early. Turns out I have always resisted mixing creativity and money — here’s why.
Today is a “clip show” post of sorts, putting together for the first time all of our money beliefs and actions that have gotten us where we are today. We spend a lot of time looking forward, and projecting future health care needs, where our income could come from and of course all the feelings. Today we’re sharing the master list, the grand compendium of everything that’s helped us get this far in our journey to early retirement.
Right now we have some issues in our house that need fixing. We want to DIY them, but haven’t had the time, which puts us in an uncomfortable spot: stay frugal and somehow magically find the time, or use common sense and hire people to fix the problems. Today we explore those times when frugality may not be the answer.
We’ve gotten a lot of money advice in our adult lives, and quite a lot of it seemed totally convincing… until we examined the philosophical question underlying that advice. How we learned to tell whether that reasonable-sounding advice is actually good or not.
We’ve spent more than a decade building up our savings and investments, all the while granting them a special status by not touching them. Even shelling out $8,000 for our tax bill this year felt painful. The pain of paying that bill made me wonder if I have “special occasion thinking” around our investments. And if, when it comes time for it next year, we’ll actually be able to spend our investments. Let’s explore…
We all know that tomorrow is not a guarantee, but let’s be practical. We simply can’t do everything. But sometimes we let that fact be the source of extra excuses — excuses not to focus enough on fitness, or not to spend time with family. But that ends soon!
There’s an issue that we’ve struggled to get our heads around, which we’ll call our optimal retirement income: a level at which we get a big Obamacare/ACA subsidy on our health insurance, we pay low taxes and we enjoy a comfortable standard of living. But calculating that number is not as straightforward as it seems. Enter the income vs. cashflow discrepancy!
One of the funny things that happens when you’re open about FIRE plans is you get some questions that might seem ridiculous on their face, especially from people who haven’t yet had their minds blown by how achievable some form of early retirement is for plenty of folks, or who have never allowed themselves to dream about a life without the necessity of work. Rather than dismiss those questions out of hand, let’s actually dig into them.
While we’re making fast progress toward FIRE, it’s not because we are especially gifted in the discipline department. We still slip up and make occasional impulse purchases, even now, multiple years into our FIRE journey. But, we’ve found a way to fake discipline, through the motivating power of streaks.
It’s easy to think of early retirement as all about the escape. But then what? We don’t want any part of our life to be defined solely by absence, by its lack of something, in our case the lack of work. We want our lives to be defined by presence, to be lived in the affirmative, the ultimate opt-in to what fires us up and makes us launch out of bed in the morning. That’s why we’re busy crafting a life that keeps the stoke high.
Something we get asked about semi-regularly is our two-tiered retirement plan, and why we aren’t thinking of our taxable and tax-deferred funds as all one pool. Here’s a breakdown of why.
Thinking about how we want to be remembered, we always come back to this idea of leaving the world in better shape than we found it, even if it’s only in little ways. And as early retirees, we’ll be in a unique position to do that, because we’ll be able to spend most of our time on projects that are important to us, that help our community, instead of focusing solely on earning a living. Here’s why we think everyone should build some joyful generosity into their life plan.
We all tend to talk about saving money and reducing needs in ways that make us focus on the aspiration to be income-poor. But there are some important times when we should instead think like a rich person, since any aspiring FIer eventually becomes one!
We constantly come across new tips on how to get to “optimal frugality,” and while we think it’s great to continually try to optimize your spending, something that we now know to be true is that there’s never a point of ultimate optimization, a point when we have everything figured out perfectly. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of dropping habits and adding new ones. Here are some we’re happy we’ve dropped.
For a long time, we were big fans of dollar cost averaging, the notion that you hedge against market losses by not buying a whole bunch of shares at one time, but rather in smaller increments over time. There’s only one problem: Mathematically, it turns out dollar cost averaging is not that great a strategy after all.
We’d all love it to be otherwise, but getting to big financial goals is mostly a matter of letting time pass. Rather than sit around feeling impatient all the time, and let that suck the joy out of the journey, we’ve found some strategies that help us pass the time without getting quite so antsy.
It’s that time again — when we share our quarterly stats and progress on the road to early retirement. Also in this update, something that’s got us so flipping excited — like party confetti emoji excited, you guys. Come check it out!
Do you think there is a meaningful difference between the terms financial independence and early retirement? Let’s dive into this distinction without a difference, and what it means for the personal finance community.
A lot of what we talk about here is specific to people on the early retirement path, but today’s topic is something every single one of us should have as an important part of our financial plan: an emergency fund. We think of our emergency fund not as a one-and-done kinda thing, but as something that has evolved upward and downward over time. And now, as we’re approaching early retirement, we’re once again rethinking how much we need to have saved in our e-fund when we hit our magical date.
As we get closer and closer to early retirement, we get more excited. But it’s not all puppies and ice cream sundaes, either. There are some definite ups and downs that have come along with our journey, and sometimes we each handle them differently. Here’s how we navigate that as a couple.
Lately we’ve been wondering: How many of us who are saving for early retirement would happily spend more if we had more to spend? If spending more wouldn’t derail our plans?
We’ve noticed something surprising. We’re super happy to talk in detail about finances and our retirement plans with strangers… but we don’t do the same thing with people we know in real life. Why is it so much easier to spread the word about FIRE with strangers?
A tension we notice a lot in PF blogland is the question of whether to prepay the mortgage, or sink as much money as possible into market funds, and it’s a question we struggle with, too. In some imaginary world in which we could see into the future and see how the markets will perform, it would be an easy decision to make. Let’s dig into how we answer this question in reality.
it’s the most math ever! today we’re talking about how we calculated what we need to save for early retirement, since the 4 percent rule doesn’t exactly work as planned for all early retirees.
today we’re tackling two topics: the question of how to define financial independence (and whether we’ve already reached that milestone without noticing), and sharing the contents of our already-full life bucket!
the last time we talked finances, we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave at the end of 2015, back when it appeared that we were ahead of schedule on our early retirement goals. but now we are now experiencing the financial hangover, the realization that actual reality may shake out differently than we’d hoped. all the more reason to keep our goals fluid!
if you watched yesterday’s super bowl, you couldn’t miss all the speculation that peyton manning is going to retire after this season. what’s incredible is that peyton has the rare privilege of choosing to go out on top, on his own terms. not many people, in sports and in regular working life, get that choice.
we’ve had that mythical first year of freedom on our minds in a big way lately. like any aspiring early retirees worth our salt, we spend lots of time thinking about everything we want to do when we have more time on our hands, but we’ve been getting more specific, and thinking about the things we’ll do as we adjust to our post-work era, and some of the big life goals that we want to tackle right away.
we’ve mentioned several times over the past few months that we’ve been working on a monster post on health care, obamacare/aca coverage and how the subsidy limits are affecting our retirement budget projections. but we’ve realized that the more interesting topic is the moral catch-22 of the affordable care act subsidies.
we’re super excited for today’s post. we have been dreaming of early retirement for years, but didn’t really know how to plan out what we conceptually knew we wanted. so we vaguely “saved money” and daydreamed about how great it would be not to work until we’re old. […]
we think it’s easy to feel a bit hopeless in the face of financial hurdles if you’re not a person for whom financial virtues comes easily. if you’re not a natural saver, you’re not doomed to a life of financial misery. but, you have to know what your weaknesses are, and develop a system to work around them. here’s how we’ve built a system that doesn’t rely on willpower at all.
we’re just a little over a week away from the end of the year, and now that we know how our bonuses shook out (mine: better than my low expectations. mr. onl’s: better than our fairly high expectations. wohoo!), it’s a good time to look at how we did this year, and look ahead to our goals for 2016.
today we’re telling the story of the city condo we once owned, and which we’ve struggled to define as a “good” investment or a “bad” one. it’s a reminder that it’s not always easy to tell good decisions from bad decisions — or good investments from bad investments — but rather it’s about what those decisions do to your trajectory, and what other decisions they influence.
today’s post is a short one to share three little tidbits: 1. we are up with an fi interview on even steven money. 2. we have a slightly epic money fail to share. 3. an update on my bonus.
this week and next are scary weeks for us. these are the weeks when we’ll find out if we’ll be doing a happy dance that we hit our year-end goals, or making sad puppy faces at each other for the next few weeks because we missed the mark. yep, it’s bonus time.
one of the misconceptions we used to have about frugality was that frugal people were cheap at all costs. it’s easy to view frugality as all or nothing, or to see frugality as trumping other values. but it doesn’t have to. a breakthrough idea for us was reframing how we see frugality in terms of the business term triple bottom line.
we feel the sunday blues in a big way. and we know why: not only do we just not love having to work every day, we know that we’re in especially high pressure, stressful, occasionally soul-sucking jobs. but we didn’t just default into these golden handcuffs of ours, and we don’t stay in our jobs because we lack imagination. our choice to stay put in unsustainable jobs is a clear-eyed decision we’ve made, based on considering all of our options and deciding what’s most important to us. the most important thing? getting to our exit date as soon as we possibly can.
early retirement is a bfd. and it’s not for everyone. it’s a very different path from the one most people follow for a reason, and it’s not one we should go down without having our eyes wide open. early retirement won’t magically fix everything we wish was different about us or our lives, and it comes with its own set of pitfalls and stresses. to help sort this out, we’ve put together a list: the ten questions you should be able to answer before you retire early.
you know we love a good object lesson. recently we had one inexplicable morning when the fire just would. not. light. those days are a reminder that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. the answer: add kindling. the point of the kindling is not only to get us past those obstacles, and to get the fire going a little, but to get those flames to start spreading — and spreading fast.
we’ve both come across a seemingly frequent but also puzzling (to us) phenomenon while perusing new blogs. when aspiring early retirees are telling people in their lives about their plans to retire early, they’re getting negative responses. one of which has us utterly befuddled: the assertion that the accumulation of assets required to retire early constitutes pretty much the worst quality we can imagine: greed. here’s our response, in manifesto form.
today we’re sharing the clearest glimpse yet into where we are on our journey toward early retirement in money terms, along with a detailed breakdown of how we plan to fund both our early retirement and our full retirement. we’re talking percentages instead of absolute numbers, but are going into a lot more detail than we ever have before. that’s right: it’s all the charts.
last week on an early morning flight, i flew over a line of cars on a major commuting artery, already in bumper-to-bumper traffic before the sun was up. and i wondered: how many of those people, as kids, dreamed that, one day, after slaving away at school for more than a decade, going to college and doing all the right internships, their reward would be this: soul-crushing traffic? that they’d rise before the sun for the privilege? that this would be their destiny?
we have a clear vision for the life we want to lead when we retire, and that means living in the mountains and having a permanent home base, which don’t come cheap. we’re okay with those expenses, but have given up lots of other things to make our early retirement dreams a reality.
this weekend we visited mono lake, an ancient and super salty lake. all that salt means that swimmers in the lake float easily. which got us thinking: it’s easy to think that swimming is swimming, but it’s not. we can make swimming hard for ourselves or easy for ourselves, and the same goes for our finances.
we’ve been tracking our numbers for years now, and have always set annual goals for ourselves in terms of savings and mortgage paydown. but crazy as it may sound for us to say this, we’ve never defined those goals in terms of strictly what we would contribute. we’ve only defined our goals in terms of total balance. but with only goals about total balances, we now feel like we’re failing in the current market landscape, when the truth is that we’re saving more than ever. here’s how we’re adjusting our goals.
one of our earliest posts on this blog was about how we don’t share our numbers. it’s mostly because, one day not too far off in the distance, we will drop this whole anonymous charade, and we don’t want all the details of our finances attached to our names and faces. in our culture, money comes with meaning and prejudgments. having x amount means you’re supposed to behave a certain way, dress a certain way, spend a certain way. we don’t want those expectations to precede us.
it’s easy to get frustrated, wishing we’d figured out our early retirement plan at a younger age. but what would that get us? it sure wouldn’t make us retirees at this moment! we’d much rather go with the “better late than never” way of thinking, and be grateful that we found this path at all.
looking at things big picture, we’re astonished at how far we’ve come in a short time, aided in large part by jobs that overpay us. since we bought the house four years ago, our net worth has tripled, and the year-over-year gains are pretty big, owing to us getting serious about saving and about paying off the house quickly, as well as growth in the markets since 2009.
we have always loved doing things ourselves. what’s funny in retrospect is how little the money piece has mattered to us in questions of diy, at least with the small stuff. but of course that was then. and this is our running-like-hell-toward-early-retirement now. money matters. especially the saving of it. so now when we diy things, it’s just as much about saving money as it is about the joy of making something.
we never hide that we are not frugal by nature, we’re not budgeters, and we’ve really only succeeded at retirement saving by employing a pay ourselves first approach that is essentially tricking ourselves into thinking we have far less to spend than we actually do. that is all well and good for now, but things will definitely have to change once we quit our jobs at the end of 2017.
when we think about early retirement in the abstract, the visions we each have revolve around getting out into the big wide world. our individual visions differ in the where, but not much in the what, the how or the why.
don’t let any of our more philosophical posts fool you — we’re still total nerds, and we love tracking every possible aspect of our early retirement plan as much as the next guy. but, we don’t share our numbers here, which has sometimes made it tough to explain some of our more unique circumstances, like our need for a two-part retirement.
this was our sliding doors weekend. you know the concept: you rush into a train station, and just barely catch the train. but then in an alternate reality or parallel universe, you rush for the same train, but the doors close before you can hop on. that triggers a sequence of events that leads you to a completely different future.
the movement to live simply is all around us. minimalism. tiny houses. the push to reject consumerism. the urban homesteading movement. slow food. we’re all in on simple living, but that doesn’t mean we’re minimalists.
despite not following a budget, we have still learned how to trick ourselves into saving a ton and staying on track with our ambitious financial goals without much struggle, and today we’re sharing how we do that. our strategy: paying ourselves first.
today’s topic is one we wrestle with a lot, and which feels central to us as early retirement inches closer and closer: how will we define ourselves once our careers no longer define us?
Today: our reasons for being optimistic about our vision for early retirement, and for making things work in spite of the inherent risks.
this independence day, we’re sending some gratitude out to all those in the history of this great nation who’ve made it possible for us to pursue our financial independence.